She Sang "Mickey" 41 Years Ago. See Toni Basil Now at 78.
She's spent her career dancing and choreographing for big stars but is still known for her '80s hit.
Toni Basil has had a long and illustrious career as a dancer, choreographer, and singer, but she's still most famous for her hit pop single, "Mickey." It was released in 1981, along with an iconic, cheerleader-themed video in which the star wore her very own senior high school cheer uniform (at age 39!). The song hit No. 1 spot on the Billboard charts and ranks No. 6 on VH1's Greatest One-Hit Wonders of All Time list. While "Mickey" was her only single to ever really take off, Basil has never left the entertainment industry and is now considered a legend. Read on to learn what she's been up to since donning those famous pigtails.
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She's mostly a choreographer now.
Basil started off her career as a dancer and choreographer. She was one of the founding members of The Lockers, a street dance group who opened for acts like Frank Sinatra and Funkadelic. In the mid-'60s, she started doing choreography for film, TV, and music videos—work she continues to today. Some of her notable projects include the Monkees movie Head, American Graffiti, My Best Friend's Wedding, That Thing You Do, Saturday Night Live, and several music videos and films with David Bowie and Bette Midler, who remains a close friend.
The New York Times notes that her appearances in movies including Pajama Party and Viva Las Vegas made Basil "something of a dancing 'it' girl in Los Angeles in the '60s." That's why filmmaker Quentin Tarantino sought her out to choreograph dance scenes for his 2019 period movie, Once Upon A Time In Hollywood. "The '60s was leather soles and a wooden floor," she told the Times. "That's why the twist, the simplest dance, was such a sensation. Everyone could do it. They just swivel their feet and the upper body fell naturally in the opposite direction."
Basil can also be spotted dancing some of her own choreography in the opening credits of the movie.
She's also acted.
Basil has danced in many films, but she's also taken on straight-up acting roles. She appeared in the 1969 classic, Easy Rider—and was friends with star Dennis Hopper and his crowd, per the Times. She also played roles in the movies Five Easy Pieces and Greaser's Palace, as well as the shows Baywatch Nights and Laverne & Shirley. Her last role as an actor was a 1993 episode of Dark Justice.
She's still involved in music.
Basil has only released two studio albums in her career: 1981's Word of Mouth, which includes her hit single "Mickey," and 1983's Toni Basil. Her songs have appeared on several compilations over the years, however. And recently, remastered versions of some of her tracks, including "Shoppin A-Z" and "Wham! Re-Bop," a song she sang on SNL in the '70s, have landed on streaming services.
She sued South Park for parodying "Mickey."
In 2017, Basil sued Disney, Viacom, and the production company behind South Park for unauthorized use of her name, her likeness, and the song "Mickey." Per Deadline, she took issue with Disney-themed clothing sold by Forever 21 and Kohl's that quoted the song, as well as an episode of South Park in which characters are celebrating the election of Barack Obama and singing a song set to the the tune of her biggest hit. "South Park Defendants never sought or obtained consent from Basil for the use of her voice, persona and name in an episode of South Park with particularly strong political undertones," the filing read, as reported by the outlet.
In 2020, she lost an appeal on the original decision against her complaint, per The Hollywood Reporter.
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You can take dance lessons from her on Zoom.
You don't have to be a celebrity to learn some moves from Basil. In 2021, she hosted a six-part series on Zoom, diving into the history of dance in the '60s. Alas, you can't access the videos anymore through her YouTube channel, but according to her website, she's currently working on a book about dance history. She's also very active on Instagram and on Twitter, where she often posts throwback videos of herself and other artists. At 78, she's not slowing down, and she's still celebrating dance and music every day.
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